Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum from Peter Jones



  1.  I listened with interest to the interview you gave this evening on Radio Four's The World Tonight programme, and am pleased to learn that the select committee you chair proposes to take up the question of the extent to which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office provided accurate and complete evidence to Parliament. I understand from the interview that the remit of your enquiry will include the content of the "Downing Street Dossier" issued in September 2002 and wondered whether you would find the enclosed letter a useful resource.

  2.  The enclosed open letter to the Prime Minister was circulated to MPs, media sources and others in the early stages of the recent war in Iraq. It compares the claims made in the dossier with the latest available analysis from UN Weapons Inspectors, and refers to a number of useful UN sources. The conclusions are that the most reliable evidence available indicates that Iraq had no substantial, deployable WMD programmes; almost all of the foul chemical and biological weapons that had been amassed were verifiably put beyond use, and some disposal sites remained too dangerous to investigate. This accounting was achieved despite the fact that bombing on numerous occasions damaged Iraqi facilities where relevant documents and personnel were located. In the peaceful US, by contrast, Undersecretary of Defense Dov Zakheim reported in 2002 that his Department still could not properly account for at least $1.1 trillion from the fiscal year 2000, and that the assistant inspector general of the Department wouldn't even touch the unsupported money expenditures for fiscal 2001 because "material amounts" still couldn't be accounted for properly in the year.

  3.  You may also wish to note the Prime Minister's letter dated 22 May 2003 to Lynne Jones MP regarding the fabricated evidence supplied to UN Inspectors that suggested Iraq had attempted to procure uranium from Niger. Mr Blair referred to a 31 March written answer from Mike O'Brien stating, "the documents referred to by Dr El Baradei were not supplied by the UK". This is followed by unsupported repetition of the assertions that Iraq sought to obtain uranium, and that there were links between the Saddam Hussein regime and Al Qaida.

  4.  No doubt the Government will argue or imply in response that there was additional intelligence that supported the view that Iraq was a threat to us, and in breach of its obligations under various UN resolutions (most recently UNSCR 1441), and that this could not be disclosed in the dossier. Although this is no justification for using demonstrably false information in the dossier, it should be remembered that 1441 also placed obligations on all nations to pass relevant information to the UNMOVIC inspectors. The inspectors followed up many leads provided by intelligence sources and were reported to be frustrated by the fact that these always resulted in wild goose chases. If the Government possessed information of sufficient reliability and importance to justify an otherwise illegal attack on a foreign power, surely this should have been passed to UNMOVIC; and surely it should have led UNMOVIC to evidence of a functioning weapons programme.

  5.  This longstanding requirement makes the UN weapons inspection documents the key source against which to measure the accuracy and completeness of FCO information. If the dossier is anything to go by then against this standard FCO information fares very poorly.

Peter Jones

3 June 2003



What is the Justification for War in Iraq?

  With the commencement of war in Iraq, there is a building consensus amongst politicians and the media that the debate is now over, the votes have been cast, and it is time to get behind British and American troops deployed in the Gulf. However, there are still many people who are interested in understanding the reasons why force has now been employed with the inevitable suffering that this means for the people of Iraq. I therefore write to seek an explanation from you about the reasoning behind and justification for the attack on Iraq. However, I should like to present my own summary of the position in the form of an open letter, and would be grateful if you could take into account the following remarks in considering your response. I am also circulating it to friends and media sources to seek their views.

  For many months now we have heard a case put forward for war with Iraq. Saddam Hussein's regime is said to possess dangerous weaponry, which might be passed on to a terrorist group, and used by terrorists upon the civilian population of the UK or our allies. It is widely recognised that fundamentalist al-Qaida is not a natural ally of the fiercely secular Ba'athists, and that Iraq no more "harbours" al-Qaida than do Germany, the US and UK, but I will leave this issue to one side. The mere possibility of a connection is taken to constitute a "direct" threat to us, and one that must be brought to an end, either through the Iraqi leadership demonstrating that it has no proscribed weapons, or by militarily enforced disarmament.

  The intelligence evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction was summarised in September 2002 in the dossier "Iraq's Weapons Of Mass Destruction—The Assessment Of The British Government". The document sets out the case for your Government's belief that Iraq has chemical, biological or nuclear weapons of mass destruction, and missile systems to deliver them, a message that has before and since been constantly repeated. Iraq's response has been to repeat its claim that all proscribed weapons were destroyed after the Gulf War and to deny that it has attempted to create weapons of mass destruction since that time. To gain an understanding of which of these views is more likely to be true, it is helpful to compare the claims of the dossier with the recent findings from the UNMOVIC weapons inspectors, in particular the reports to the UN Security Council on 7 March 2003, and the UNMOVIC Draft Work Plan of 17 March 2003. Each of the areas of concern can be addressed independently, and from this analysis, an assessment of the risk Iraq poses can be reached.

  Missile systems: President Bush has already dismissed the issue of missiles as "irrelevant" to the decision to go to war with Iraq, and they appear not to be the weapons you fear will fall into the hands of terrorists, so I will not spend many words on them. The controversial demand that Iraq destroy al-Samoud II missiles which, by the calculations of weapons inspectors may be capable of exceeding the 150km limit by a small distance (provided their guidance systems are not fitted) has already resulted in a number of these missiles being put out of action. Dr. Blix as concluded that at most 16 scud missiles are unaccounted for out of 819 (UNMOVIC Draft Work Plan, 17 March 2003, p 26). The positioning of our troop in well-publicised sites near Iraq's borders indicates that there were few fears about long-range missile attacks. Monitoring and inspection of missiles would surely be an adequate means of policing this "irrelevant" issue.

  Nuclear weapons One—fissile material: The argument that there is a nuclear threat from Iraq appears in paragraphs 20-23 of the Dossier. It is stated that, whilst Iraq's nuclear programme was dismantled after the first Gulf War, "Iraq retains expertise and design data relating to nuclear weapons." However, Iraq lacks the materials to produce fissile material itself, and is prevented from obtaining it by the sanctions regime. The dossier points to evidence that Iraq is trying to obtain the materials it would need to restart a nuclear weapons programme, which would no doubt provide ample evidence of hostile intent. The section concludes that: "If (sanctions) were removed or prove ineffective, it would take Iraq at least five years to produce sufficient fissile material for a weapon indigenously." The dossier's authors then judge that if Iraq obtained fissile material and other essential components from foreign sources the timeline for production of a nuclear weapon would be shortened and Iraq could produce a nuclear weapon in between one and two years."

  Much of the urgency of the threat therefore depends on whether Iraq is indeed attempting to obtain the materials it would need to make a nuclear weapon. The dossier states that: "there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa", a disturbing claim. It is disturbing principally because this "intelligence" source was providing faked information. Director of the lnternational Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Dr ElBaradei, made the following rarely mentioned observation in his report to the UN Security Council on 7 March 2003:

    "With regard to Uranium Acquisition, the IAEA has made progress in its investigation into reports that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger in recent years. The investigation was centred on documents provided by a number of States that pointed to an agreement between Niger and Iraq for the sale of uranium between 1999-2001.

    The IAEA has discussed these reports with the Governments of Iraq and Niger, both of which have denied that any such activity took place. For its part, Iraq has provided the IAEA with a comprehensive explanation of its relations with Niger, and has described a visit by an Iraqi official to a number of African countries, including Niger, in February 1999, which Iraq thought might have given rise to the reports. The IAEA was also able to review correspondence coming from various bodies of the Government of Niger, and to compare the form, format, contents and signatures of that correspondence with those of the alleged procurement-related documentation.

    Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents—which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger are in fact not authentic. We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded."

  The seriousness of this deception is considerable, and it is therefore crucial that there is an investigation of how this evidence came to be put into circulation. Please could you advise me whether the UK was one of the states that provided fabricated information to the UN inspectors; and if so, what steps have been taken to discover who fabricated it, and what disciplinary proceedings are being taken against staff who through negligence or deception may have helped (mis)lead this country into war?

  Your Government's dossier notes that, "Iraq's known holdings of processed uranium are under IAEA supervision." In fact the UN Security Council disarmament panel chairman, Ambassador Amorim, reported (S/1999/356) to the Security Council on 27 March 1999 that:

    "In February 1994, the IAEA completed the removal from Iraq of all weapon-usable nuclear material essentially research reactor fuel. On the basis of its findings, the Agency is able to state that there is no indication that Iraq possesses nuclear weapons or any meaningful amounts of weapon-usable nuclear material or that Iraq has retained any practical capability (facilities or hardware) for the production of such material."

  The security situation in the Middle East would be greatly improved if this kind of IAEA supervision were extended to other nuclear powers there, such as Israel, whose nuclear programme is an open secret. Yet because uncritical US support has helped make Israel a "special case", above international law, their highly developed nuclear programme is allowed to continue without any form of inspection.

  Nuclear weapons Two—other materials: The IAEA and UNMOVIC inspectors have also made interesting discoveries regarding other evidence that has been cited against Iraq. This evidence principally concerns "dual use" technologies such as high tolerance aluminium tubes and permanent magnets that might be of use in building a centrifuge to enrich uranium for use in a nuclear warhead. Of course, given that Iraq was not in fact seeking to obtain fissile materials, there is less reason to believe that the "dual use" technologies were ever destined for a nuclear programme, but the inspectors were able to set minds at rest still further.

  Aluminium tubes: In his most recent report to the Security Council, Dr ElBaradei sets out the position regarding Iraq's attempts to procure large quantities of high-strength aluminium tubes very clearly:

    "As previously reported. Iraq has maintained that these aluminium tubes were sought for rocket production. Extensive field investigation and document analysis have failed to uncover any evidence that Iraq intended to use these 81mm tubes for any project other than the reverse engineering of rockets. The Iraqi decision-making process with regard to the design of these rockets was well documented. Iraq has provided copies of design documents, procurement records, minutes of committee meetings and supporting data and samples. A thorough analysis of this information, together with information gathered from interviews with Iraqi personnel, has allowed the IAEA to develop a coherent picture of attempted purchases and intended usage of the 81mm aluminium tubes, as well as the rationale behind the changes in the tolerances."

  He adds that:

    "Based on available evidence, the IAEA team has concluded that Iraq's efforts to import these aluminium tubes were not likely to have been related to the manufacture of centrifuges and, moreover, that it was highly unlikely that Iraq could have achieved the considerable re-design needed to use them in a revived centrifuge programme. However, this issue will continue to be scrutinized and investigated."

  So Iraq had permitted uses for the tubes they tried, unsuccessfully, to import, and would not have been able to adapt them for use in a centrifuge programme. Again, there is no evidence that justifies military action.

  Magnets: Iraq has attempted to import, and gain the capability to produce, high strength permanent magnets, which could be of use in a centrifugal uranium enrichment programme. We have seen already, though, that there is no evidence Iraq possesses or has tried to obtain either the uranium or high-strength tubes that such a programme would require. But did Iraq have a legitimate use for magnets? Dr ElBaradei thinks so:

    "(S)ince 1998, Iraq has purchased high-strength magnets for various uses. Iraq has declared inventories of magnets of 12 different designs. The IAEA has verified that previously acquired magnets have been used for missile guidance systems, industrial machinery, electricity meters and field telephones. Through visits to research and production sites, reviews of engineering drawings and analyses of sample magnets, IAEA experts familiar with the use of such magnets in centrifuge enrichment have verified that none of the magnets that Iraq has declared could be used directly for a centrifuge magnetic bearing."

  Given these other uses, and the difficulty of importing materials under the sanctions regime, Iraq would have a good reason to want to develop a domestic capacity to produce enrichment centrifuge magnets. The IAEA centrifuge experts concluded that "replacement of foreign procurement with domestic magnet production seems reasonable from an economic point of view." In any case, although Iraq signed a contract for a magnet production plant to be installed in 2003, "The delivery has not yet occurred, and Iraqi documentation and interviews of Iraqi personnel indicate that this contract will not be executed."

  Since there is no evidence of even a far-distant nuclear threat from Iraq, or that Iraq has taken steps to reinstate any kind of nuclear weapons programme, one of the most compelling reasons for war must be dismissed.

  Residue of chemical and biological weapons: The dossier also asserts that there is a residue of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq's possession from stocks held before the Gulf War. The missiles and other systems Iraq' s possession would be capable of delivering such weapons (up to 150km). In the dossier, the Joint Intelligence Committee concluded that, "These chemical and biological capabilities represented the most immediate threat from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction."

  The Iraqis are thought to have continued chemical and biological weapons research and development since the Gulf War, and the dossier emphasises that, "Saddam continues to attach great importance to the possession of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles which he regards as being the basis for Iraq's regional power. He is determined to retain these capabilities". Therefore, the Iraqi claim that all remaining stocks of weapons and precursor agents were unilaterally destroyed after the Gulf War are rejected:

    "No convincing proof of any kind has been produced to support this claim. In particular, Iraq could not explain large discrepancies between the amount of growth media (nutrients required for the specialised growth of (biological) agent) it procured before 1991 and the amounts of agent it admits to having manufactured."

  The Amorim report was rather more positive in its assessment of the position in 1999:

    "UNSCOM and IAEA have been effective in uncovering and destroying many elements of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes in accordance with the mandate provided by the Security Council . . . UNSCOM has achieved considerable progress in establishing material balances of Iraq's proscribed weapons. Although important elements still have to be resolved, the bulk of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes has been eliminated."

  The figures usually used to substantiate that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons are derived from the 1999 Amorim report, mentioned above. However, on the day that weapons inspectors were again pulled out of Iraq to allow bombing to begin, Dr Blix provided the Security Council with a fresh assessment of its stocks In both documents, the method by which the figures are arrived at is simple: first, the inspectors look at the consignments of noxious chemicals we, the US and others exported to Iraq for use against Iran, and Iraq's estimates of the quantity of weapons it was able to produce with them; then the volume that Iraq has accounted for to the inspectors' satisfaction is subtracted; and the result is Saddam's arsenal—or in the Amorim's more sober terms, "discrepancies" that require investigation.

  Of course, it is recognised by the inspectors that, since many of the numbers used in the calculations are estimates, there must always be an element of uncertainty about the fate of the last remnants of the Iraqi arsenal. However, the weapons inspectors have attempted to quantify the residual weapons issues:

  1.  "550 artillery shells filled with mustard declared to have been lost shortly after the Gulf War . . ." (Paragraph 21, Amorim report) this out of "70,000 projectiles filled with chemical agents, principally Mustard" (UNMOVIC Draft Work Plan 17 March 2003, p 45) that Iraq has declared and verifiably explained. Iraq says that the appearance of a remainder is due to the figures given in the "Currently Accurate, Full And Complete Declaration" (CAFCD) being approximations. New accounting given was to be reviewed by UNMOVIC as part of its new work plan.

  2.  "Five hundred R-400 bombs," (Paragraph 21, Amorim report). The R-400 bombs are capable of being adapted with greater or lesser efficiency to deliver a range of biological or chemical agents. In the Draft Work Plan, the number of remaining R-400 bombs not accounted for is given as "300 to 350", but it notes that the circumstances of the destruction of some weapons makes estimates difficult. Some R-400 bombs are said to have been destroyed by coalition bombing, along with the inventory of these weapons. Others were "either unilaterally destroyed in 1991 by burning and explosion or destroyed under UNSCOM supervision" but the numbers were hard to establish due to "hazardous conditions created by the method of destruction." The Al Azzizziyah firing range was declared as the destruction area for all of the filled biological R-400 bombs and was excavated under the supervision of UNSCOM in 1997. However, inspectors deemed the risk from unexploded weapons to be too great to permit a full inspection of the site. Under pressure, Iraq has undertaken further re-excavation. As of 3 March 2003, "Iraq had recovered eight complete bombs, 94 base plates and over 250 bomb fragments from a number of excavation sites at the range." Surely the right way to proceed under these circumstances would have been to continue efforts to establish how many of the outstanding balance of R-400 bombs could be accounted for at Al Azzizziyah?

  3.  Iraq acquired around 30,000 aerial bombs that could be filled with chemical agents between 1983-90. The number of these used up during the Iran-Iraq war is large, but disputed; an lraqi Air Ministry report on which the lnspectors place reliance is said by Iraq not to have included data on "consumption of CW filled munitions positioned at three airbases. . . (which) had been occupied in 1991 and the records destroyed." During its time in Iraq, UNSCOM supervised the destruction of "more than 2,000 filled and some 10,000 empty bombs" but "was not able to fully verify Iraq's declared unilateral destruction of some 2,000 empty bombs and some 450 mustard bombs destroyed as declared by Iraq in a fire accident." There is probably insufficient evidence ever finally to establish the fate of the few remaining filled and usable weapons, but the work plan concludes that "Iraq's inventory of aerial chemical and biological bombs was presumably eliminated," whilst advising that the low technological requirements to produce such weapons mean "its ability to reconstitute that inventory remains largely intact." Neither the inevitable uncertainty over what was destroyed in war damage and accident, nor a suspicion that Iraq has the minimal capabilities needed to manufacture proscribed weapons, would single it out as a unique threat to us.

  4.  All bulk Sarin stocks have been accounted for, and Dr Blix's work plan notes regarding the few "unaccounted for weaponized Sarin-type agents, it is unlikely that they would still be viable today." (p 64) Iraq does not appear to have the stocks of the essential Sarin precursor chemical, MLPC, and so lacks the capacity to produce more. There does not appear to be a threat of Sam attack from Iraq.

  5.  UNMOVIC has received intelligence reports regarding Iraqi attempts to build long-range Remote Piloted Vehicles (RPVs)/Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) which could deliver a chemical or biological payload. Inspectors are aware of several permitted RPV projects in Iraq, and believe that Iraq might have the expertise to develop a chemical weapons delivery system, but the Draft Work Plan refers to no evidence that supports the view that Iraq has continued to develop RPVs or UAVs that would breach their obligations under UN Resolutions. Inspectors recommend further inspection as the way to resolve the question.

  6.  Iraq had a programme to produce the nerve agent VX, which it did not make disclosures about following the Gulf War. It is now admitted that 3.9 tonnes were produced; however, the kind of VX Iraq was capable of producing is unstable, and Iraq claims that its stocks were destroyed when they degraded. Disposal sites have been visited, and subsequent analysis of samples has confirmed that VX and its precursors were disposed of, but even the most sophisticated available techniques do not allow precise estimates of the amounts destroyed. There is nothing in the UN Draft Work Plan that suggests Iraq still has any VX, but concerns are raised that it still has the precursor chemicals needed to make more. That said, it also reports that:

    "Iraq has declared that significant quantities of precursors for VX production were destroyed through aerial bombardment during the Gulf War (thionyl chloride, phosphorus pentasuiphide, diisopropyl amine and chioroethanol), lost due to improper storage (phosphorus trichloride) or destroyed by Iraq in the absence of IJNSCOM inspectors "(Iraqi choline")."

  If even one of these claims is correct, then Iraq cannot produce VX, since there is no indigenous capacity to produce any of the precursors listed. The weapons inspectors also note that there is no indication that there are any facilities in Iraq capable of producing VX, which indicates that there is no direct threat of VX attack from Iraq.

  7.  Iraq's main chemical weapon was mustard gas. The weapons inspectors' reports accept that, apart from the contested 72 tonnes in the 1,000 or so mustard gas bombs already discussed, all stocks of mustard gas were verified as destroyed under UNSCOM supervision (Work Plan, p 60). However, some precursor chemicals are unaccounted for, and Iraq would be capable of manufacturing more of these itself—if it had any facilities suitable for doing so. UNMOVIC state that, "significant modifications would be required to convert existing chemical production facilities for this purpose." So, reassuringly, there is no threat of Iraq supplying terrorists with large amounts of mustard gas.

  8.  The Draft Work Plan expresses concerns that Iraq may still have in its possession up to 10,000 litres of anthrax in liquid suspension that is though to have been deployed during the Gulf War. Iraq contends that the anthrax in question was destroyed at its Al Hakam facility in 1991, and has suggested methods that could be used to verify the amounts disposed of, but it was feared that "even if the use of advanced technology could quantify the amount of anthrax said to be dumped at the site, the results would still be open to interpretation." (Dr Blix's report to UNSC, 7 March 2003) However, before rushing to bomb Iraq, it might have been wise to establish whether there was evidence of disposal having taken place there, and to make an estimate of whether this was on a scale that could account for the missing quantity.

  9.  Iraq has declared that it produced 19,000 litres of a highly toxic kind of botulinum toxin, and that the unused supply of 7,565 litres was destroyed together with the filled munitions in July 1991. The weapons inspectors have been unable to verify either the production or destruction of botulinum toxin by Iraq, due to the destruction of documents relating to the project. However, they reassuringly point out that "Any botulinum toxin that was produced and stored according to the methods described by Iraq and in the time period declared is unlikely to retain much, if any, of its potency. Therefore, any such stockpiles of botulinum toxin, whether in bulk storage or in weapons that remained in 1991, would not be active today." (Draft Work Plan, p 73)

  10.  UNMOVIC has looked closely at whether Iraq's declarations have covered all of their biological weapons projects. UNSCOM did not find any substantial evidence that agents other than those disclosed by Iraq had been part of the BW programme, although there were indications that it had been interested in how they might be produced. UNMOVIC assesses that "probably little would have been achieved in Iraq's BW viral research programme prior to the Gulf War." However, the Draft Work Plan requires Iraq to provide more information about the disposal of a vial of Brucella seed stock and an undefined quantity of the growth medium tryptone soya broth (TSB). But there is no clear evidence that these have been retained, or that they were ever used to create a weapon.

  So that is Saddam's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction as identified by the weapons inspectors. To recap, it amounts at most to around 1,000 mustard gas shells and bombs; a suspicion surrounding some part of a stock of 10,000 litres of anthrax; an unquantified amount of the 3.9 tonnes of VX Iraq produced; and possibly some other materials that could be used, or adapted for use, in a weapons programme.

  Clearly, considerable progress has been made on the verification of Iraq's claim that it destroyed its weapons in 1991, so much so that Inspectors' reports began to speak of "a possible `point of impasse' in the further investigation of these issues", due to diminishing returns on inspection activity—100% verification has long been recognized as an impossibility by all involved in the process, as is made explicit in the Amorim report. This is quite an achievement in a country much of whose military administrative infrastructure was comprehensively destroyed by US/UK troops in the last Gulf War. It would be interesting to know how effectively the UK or US could account for all chemical and biological weapons obtained since the mid-1980s.

  Iraq's capacity to produce chemical and biological weapons: The threat from Iraq is sometimes put in terms of the potential Iraq has to produce and proliferate dangerous weaponry. But if there is scant evidence that Iraq still retains chemical and biological weapons from its 1980s stockpile, there is less to support the idea that Iraq is actively trying to produce further stocks, despite the fact that:

    "BW agents can be produced using low technology and simple equipment, generally dual-use, (and) Iraq possesses the capability and knowledge base through which biological warfare agents could be produced quickly and in volume." (Amorim report, paragraph 21)

  Iraq possesses much machinery that would need only a little adaptation for use in a biological weapons programme, and has scientists with the necessary expertise; but surely this potential capability in no way amounts to the clear and present threat that might justify war. No production facilities for anthrax or botulinum toxin of any kind have been found.

  Nor is there credible evidence that Iraq has been attempting to hide facilities from the inspectors. Dr Blix reported that searches at for underground facilities at "several specific locations" using "ground penetrating radar equipment" have revealed nothing. Inspectors have also investigated the claims that Iraq has developed mobile weapons laboratories.

    "Several inspections have taken place at declared and undeclared sites in relation to mobile production facilities. Food testing mobile laboratories and mobile workshops have been seen, as well as large containers with seed processing equipment. No evidence of proscribed activities has so far been found. Iraq is expected to. assist in the development of credible ways to conduct random checks of ground transportation." (Dr Blix's report to UNSC, 7 March 2003).

  Dr Blix has also denied that the Iraqi regime has tried to clean up sites in advance of inspectors' visits. So, there is also nothing to suggest that Iraq has been trying to hide a continuing capacity to make chemical or biological weapons.

  On the basis of easily available information, then, it seems clear that hardly any of the claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction made in the Dossier stand up to scrutiny. The people best placed to assess Iraq's compliance with the inspection process, the UN weapons inspectors, have emphasised that the vast majority of Iraq's 1980s arsenal of weapons has been satisfactorily accounted for, and progress was still being made in many areas. Dr Blix's Draft Work Plan Sets out clearly the steps that lraq could take to bring about the completion of the inspection process—provided the impossible aim of 100% verification based on estimates and calculations was set aside. A cynic might suggest that it was in order to make sure that Dr Blix's plan could never be seriously debated that the UK and US have decided on this moment to launch the long heralded war on Iraq, without the backing of the UN Security Council.

  I do not imagine that what was released in the dossier represents the full scope of the intelligence information in your possession. However, I would hope that neither you nor President Bush is in material breach of your own obligations under UNSCR 1441 (2002), namely to:

    ". . . give full support to UNMOVIC and the IABA in the discharge of their mandates, including by providing any information related to prohibited programmes or other aspects of their mandates, including on Iraqi attempts since 1998 to acquire prohibited items, and by recommending sites to be inspected, persons to be interviewed, conditions of such interviews, and data to be collected . . ."

  Yet even with access to all the information you are able to provide, weapons inspectors told CBS News on February 21, 2003 that:

    "the US claim that Iraq is developing missiles that could hit its neighbours—or US troops in the region, or even Israel—is just one of the claims coming from Washington that inspectors here are finding increasingly unbelievable. The inspectors have become so frustrated trying to chase down unspecific or ambiguous US leads that they've begun to express that anger privately in no uncertain terms."

  The inspectors described the intelligence information as "circumstantial, outdated or just plain wrong." lf you have better information, why was this not given to the weapons inspectors? But if the intelligence the inspectors complain of is that which you have used as the basis of your appraisal of the danger posed by Iraq, the experience of the weapons inspectors who have found it to be groundless surely must make you reduce your trust in it: it certainly does not seem strong enough to justify a massive attack on a shattered country.

  Saddam Hussein is undoubtedly a tyrant, a bully and a murderer; but in this he is scarcely unique amongst world leaders. He has distinguished himself from other dictators through the use of mustard gas and nerve agents on Iraqi Kurds at Halabja in northern Iraq, killing up to 5,000 people according to Human Rights Watch. But whilst his methods may have been different and appalling, his programme of ethnic cleansing differs little in its aims and ruthlessness from that carried out by our NATO ally Turkey against its own Kurdish population. For example, another Human Rights Watch estimate concerns the work of a Government backed right-wing organization called "Hizbullah", which alone killed more than a thousand suspected sympathizers of the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) in street shootings from 1992-95. ( This record suggests that the US/UK attacks are hardly going to improve the plight of the Iraqi Kurds if, as seems increasingly likely, Turkey invades Northern Iraq.

  Saddam is repeatedly accused of making Iraq suffer under sanctions by diverting resources for his own use and stockpiling food and medical supplies; perhaps the US and UK attacks are to ensure that the population no longer has to suffer for his greed and insatiable desire for weapons? This view is not supported in the reports of the UN Office of the Iraq Programme on Oil-for-Food, which have never mentioned diversion of funds as a problem. Outgoing staff from the programme have been more outspoken in their dismissal of the accusation[2]. In fact, the UN has consistently identified that there are in fact three main reasons for poor nutrition and high infant mortality in Iraq under Oil-for-Food:

  1.  The programme has a massive budget shortfall because of lower than expected oil revenues. UN staff recognise that the oil-for-food programme is no substitute for normal economic activity, and could at best keep the Iraqi people from starvation. It did not provide resources for major repairs to the electricity and water infrastructure. Many of the excess deaths in Iraq under sanctions have been due to the lack of clean water. The Office of the Iraq Programme Oil-for-Food Weekly Update issued on 18 March 2003 reported that 2,642 UN-approved humanitarian supply contracts, worth some $5.4 billion, currently lack funds.

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  2.  Large numbers of orders have been put on hold awaiting approval; the latest update gives the number as "1,035 worth $3.1 billion (26.9% of value)". Items are put on hold if they feature on the UN Goods Review List of possible dual-use technologies, and suppliers are required to give additional technical information to UNMOVIC and IAEA so that they can decide whether the imports are permissible. Many of the items on hold are required so that other items that have been bought under the scheme can be used. The otherwise useless purchases have to be warehoused, giving rise to rumours of stockpiling.

  3.  In his 19 November 2002 statement to the Security Council, Benon V. Sevan, Executive Director of the UN Iraq Programme, repeated another reason why Iraqis are suffering under the oil for food programme:

    "At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I feel duty bound to reiterate yet again that it is essential to provide commercial protection for the Iraqi buyers. . . As detailed in the previous Note by the Office of the Iraq Programme, dated 19 September 2002, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies are delivered with short shelf life; high protein biscuits and therapeutic milk that fail quality control; items with essential components missing or defective; equipment delivered but not assembled; vehicles, machines and spare parts delivered in a damaged condition or with wrong technical specification; foodstuffs that, while being safe for human consumption, are of an inferior quality to that contracted. These are all largely due to the lack of commercial protection . . .

    I should like to reiterate the repeated calls by the Secretary-General for allowing the inclusion of standard commercial protection provisions in the contracts signed by the Government of Iraq."

  It appears that the Iraqi people are suffering because they are being sold substandard goods, often without key components, under a system that simply is not resourced to allow them a decent standard of living. There is a much more effective way of relieving their suffering than by dropping bombs on them—a comprehensive review of the impact of the sanctions regime, and its phased removal as Iraq verifiably complies with the elements of the UNMOVIC Draft Work Plan.

  The US and UK say they are frustrated by the 12 years of "non-compliance". In order for the UN to retain credibility, the issue of Iraq's weapons must be resolved. But for Iraq it has been 12 years of isolation and sanctions, policed by an inspection team infiltrated by foreign intelligence agents, and with no clear indication of when or how these conditions could be lifted. With the return of inspectors, their findings if anything support the claims of the Iraqi regime rather than those of US/UK, which are being used as the justifications for unleashing our own terrible arsenal upon their country. Isn't the authority of the UN undermined much more severely by the apparent disregard of rich, powerful nations for the will of the Security Council and the word of the UN Charter?

  Unanimous support for UNSCR 1441 was possible only because it did not automatically allow an attack on Iraq. To treat Iraq's recent actions, which Dr Blix has described as "proactive" but not "immediate" compliance with resolution 1441, as a material breach is a dubious decision; and to claim that this authorises the use of force by reviving UNSCR 678, which authorised the Gulf War, seems simply mendacious. Under the circumstances, France's determination not to allow a Security Council resolution that authorised the immediate use of force against Iraq, seems much more reasonable than President Bush's opposition to any resolution that did not—or the decision to go to war on flimsy evidence and without a further UNSCR vote.

  Many people fear the consequences of our espousal of a doctrine of pre-emptive attack on potential enemies, based on partially disclosed intelligence information, and without the explicit support of the UN Security Council. If we are to consider ourselves justified in this war on Iraq, how much more justified would Pakistan and India be in "pre-empting" one another? Indeed, would your doctrine not have justified Iraq in seeking the means to launch attack on US and UK military assets or civilians? Pre-emption cuts both ways, at least for those who give the same value to lraqi lives as to all other people.

  Your Government's impending action is strongly opposed by many members of your own party, parliamentary and otherwise, by a wide range of governments around the world, and by a broad cross-section of the populations of this and many other countries, including the US. So strongly is it opposed that we have seen demonstrations of popular dissent on an unprecedented scale in many countries—all this for a war that had not then commenced. It is worth recalling that the US action in Vietnam, which involved such widespread death and destruction in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and made such terrible demands of the American people, was opposed on anything like this scale until it had been raging for five years.

  In some ways, the fact that there is such a strong reaction against this war is a result of the rise of the discourse of human rights and humanitarianism that was the constant accompaniment of the military expeditions you undertook alongside President Clinton. The emphasis you and he placed on the framework of international law, and the protection of the basic rights of people in other countries rang a chord with many people; but they also came to see the importance of rich, powerful states observing those same laws and standards of conduct in their treatment of poorer, weaker nations, even those with valuable commodities that we might wish to control. People have watched for months as this "war in search of a justification" has crept closer, and recognised that an attack on Iraq was part of the Bush administration's plan long before terrorism struck the US. They refuse to stand by whilst the international laws we have been encouraged to believe in are flouted by our own governments.

  Now that forces are committed and war is at hand, debate over the war is already being replaced by politicians' and journalists' displays of "getting behind our troops". Many, though, remain concerned that by involving UK troops in this criminal, reprehensible and extraordinarily dangerous war, you leave them and yourself open to war crimes charges in the future[3], and think that the best way to "get behind our troops" is to make the truly tough decision and call off the attack on Iraq.

  In the light above, I reiterate that I should like to know the justification for our currently military involvement in Iraq.

Peter R L Jones

22 March 2003

2   Michael Stone, head of inspections via the UN's Multidisciplinary Observation Unit until 1998, wrote in the Independent that "Ministers and senior members of the Opposition frequently state that the Iraqi leadership have diverted supplies under this programme. This is a serious error. Some 150 international observers, travelling throughout Iraq, reported to the United Nations Multidisciplinary Observer Unit, of which I was the head. At no time was any diversion recorded. I made this clear in our reports to the UN Secretary General, and he reported in writing to the Security Council accordingly". Denis Halliday, who resigned as head of the United Nations humanitarian program in 1998, went further, saying that "Oil for food" was designed to fail", and describing the sanctions regime as "genocidal". ( Back

3   Opinion of Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers: "The definition of war crimes is very broad and will catch indiscriminate methods of attack or weapon systems. The UK Government must ensure that all force used is targeted, discriminate, proportionate and necessary, otherwise its leaders face a similar fate to that of Milosovic." It appears that none of this violence is necessary. Back

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